« November 2017 Issue

The Intersection of Immigration Status and Health Has Never Been More Clear

Across the country, many immigrants are scared to leave their houses out of fear the Trump administration’s strong-arm immigration policies will upend their entire lives. Fed by the administration’s divisive rhetoric on the issue, immigration status has become an urgently significant social determinant of health. According to Jenny Rejeske, a senior health policy analyst at the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), “Even though [immigration] policy hasn’t changed, it’s changed how people behave and people are staying away from the doctor and not getting the health care they need.”

The administration’s proposed policies—notably, a proposed executive order on immigration and public benefits leaked in January and the decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program—contribute to this fear. While the immigrant advocacy community is working tirelessly to educate immigrants about what is – and isn’t – law, many immigrants are still fearful to renew or enroll in programs like Medicaid and WIC. This puts the health and well-being of immigrant families at risk.

While Community Catalyst’s focus on continued expansion and improvement of coverage for immigrants remain critical policy objectives, we now finds ourselves working alongside immigrant rights organizations to defend and protect immigrants from discriminatory policy proposals that extend beyond the health care sphere.

This summer, Community Catalyst joined the "Protecting Immigrant Families, Advancing Our Future" (Protecting Immigrant Families) campaign led by NILC and the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP). Community Catalyst staff members sit on the campaign's Steering Committee to offer strategic guidance on the direction of the campaign's communications, stakeholder engagement and mobilization strategies to ensure 30-plus local, state and national organizations are equipped to respond to legislative and administrative threats to health care, nutrition programs, public services and economic supports for immigrant families. The organization also participates in the Education and Mobilization workgroup to strategize about how local and state partners can quickly mobilize their bases to take action to protect low-income immigrant families.

According to Rejeske, the successful pushback against welfare and immigration reform in the 1990s was aided greatly by the engagement of health agencies and advocates. They publicized the ways restricting or taking away access to health care for immigrants affects public health, including increased health care costs due to a lack of preventive services and the easier spread of communicable diseases. History has led the coalition to engage with health advocacy organizations in the fight against the executive order and repeal of DACA.

“We were able to engage as a partner in this work based on the strength of our deep relationships we’ve built with health care advocacy groups across the country over the years,” said Alberto González, Community Catalyst senior state advocacy manager and organizational liaison to the campaign. “The organization has worked to make health equity a key component of our work and that requires us to engage in campaigns like this and to be more vocal about our support for legislation like the Dream Act and opposition to DACA repeal.”

Even if congressional action saves DACA, the fight for immigrant rights will continue as verbiage from Trump’s executive order has already made its way into legislation currently under consideration by Congress. Community Catalyst is committed to supporting initiatives that protect the well-being of immigrant communities and promote their contributions to our country.

To learn more about the Protecting Immigrant Families campaign and stay up to date on their work, sign up for their newsletter.

Jack Cardinal, Communications Manager, Center for Consumer Engagement in Health Innovation, Community Catalyst

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Executive Director Rob Restuccia co-authored an article in the American Journal of Public Health, “How Dental Therapists Can Address the Social and Racial Disparities in Access to Care,” citing our Economic Viability of Dental Therapists report to illustrate why dental health care should be treated as an equally important aspect of overall care.

Senior Fellow John O’Brien co-authored an op-ed for STAT with attorney Jenifer Bosco of the National Consumer Law Center about how states can take action to curb medical debt.

The New York Times interviewed Senior Policy Analyst Ashley Blackburn in an article highlighting the impending threat of “junk insurance” plans during July’s negotiations of the Better Care Reconciliation Act.

Community Catalyst board member Anton Gunn penned an op-ed for The Hill about his time on the “Drive For Our Lives” bus tour, where he traveled the country with health care advocates to fight for affordable, comprehensive health care for all.

The Associated Press quoted Executive Director Rob Restuccia criticizing the Trump administration’s decision to gut funding for navigators in a report on budget cuts in 18 cities.

The Center for Consumer Engagement in Health Innovation’s report with Leading Age was cited in a Forbes op-ed, which argued the importance of comprehensive health policy that keeps aging patients in mind, as well as patient-centered practices from health care providers for older Americans.

This fall, Community Catalyst was pleased to promote Diane Felicio to Chief Operating Officer, Reena Singh to Chief Program Officer, and Andi Mullin to Project Manager for the Center for Consumer Engagement in Health Innovation.

Join us in welcoming new staff members: Mara Blessoff, Executive Assistant; Joshua Matfess, Community Engagement Associate; Kiralee McCauley, Manager, Finance and Operations; Julia Watson, Program Associate, Center for Consumer Engagement in Health Innovation; Kasey Wilson, Policy Analyst, Dental Health Access Project; Diana Zheng, Outreach & Engagement Coordinator, Raising Women’s Voices.

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